All seven Puyallup City Council members embraced recommendations the Puyallup Task Force made last week on chronic and adult homelessness.
In response to feedback from the community earlier this year on the impact homelessness has on downtown Puyallup, the city council formed the task force to address what the impacts are, what services are provided and what solutions could be found.
They looked at what untapped partnerships might be available that could decrease negative impacts and questioned whether or not the current 48-hour exemption in the homelessness encampment ordinance be revisited, or other code amendments be enacted.
Amy Schweim, a volunteer coordinator at Immanuel Lutheran for the Freezing Nights program, served on the task force.
“I’ve been advocating for the city and the council to get more involved in the homeless issues over the years,” Schweim said. “So to finally have a reality check that this is what we need to work on was nice, even though it was coming from a negative standpoint.”
A preponderance of community feedback centered mostly on the impacts to on downtown during the winter months, when Freezing Nights operates. The nonprofit volunteer program will enter its eight year of service this November. It provides shelter to and warm meals to homeless adults. Schweim was a co-founder along with Ted Brackman.
Among the recommendations to reduce impacts, the vision for a drop-in day center that would serve the homeless is supported by the Freezing Nights group.
“This is an opportunity for the whole community to work together for the homeless,” said Paula Anderson, a member of the Freezing Nights administrative team. “This would be a permanent day site where it could be a shelter for a period of time, but the goal would be for anyone who comes in to get resources that they need. The ultimate solution is to get them out of homelessness.”
Schweim said a drop-in center would include showers and a place to wash clothes; online access for homeless adults to apply for jobs; online education classes; housing services; veterans services for homeless veterans, and drug and alcohol counseling.
“This is a place they can be without being harassed,” Schweim said.
Council member Tom Swanson commended the Freezing Nights volunteers and other nonprofits that support the homeless.
“We need to set up a mechanism that enables these volunteer organizations to be successful,” Swanson said. “I’m very supportive of the recommendations brought forward.”
Schweim said the public needs to remember Freezing Nights is volunteer-run.
“We don’t have training in this,” she said. “We are well-meaning people following Christ’s command to help these folks.”
Schweim said she is encouraged by the fact that the task force wants to continue the work.
“We don’t want it to stop with this,” she said. “We want to continue checking in to see how recommendations are going. To help the homeless, alleviate the problem and continue the process.”
The city council gave the task force its support to continue its work.
“I would like to see the entire set of recommendations be accepted and approved,” city council member John Hopkins said. “I would like to see the work of the task force to continue.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.